Although his presidency lasted only 1,036 days, John F. Kennedy has gone down in history as one of the greatest orators America has ever known. His speeches during his brief time in office are still quoted more than half a century after his death while his unique speaking style remains one of the most distinctive voices in US history. But was he always such a great orator? We now have the chance to find out.
Harvard has been busy digitizing student speeches from required course English F in the 1930s. In 1937, 20-year-old sophomore John F. Kennedy took the class and delivered a speech on then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision to nominate Hugo L. Black as an associate justice to the United States Supreme Court. Only a little over 90 seconds of the speech survive, we do get a glimpse of the fire in the future POTUS.
While the young Kennedy stumbles in a few spots, he is forceful in his speaking and his subject matter — much different from the book collecting and sourdough bread discussed by his classmates — proves where his interests are.
Archivists believe that students were recorded again in their senior year, so hopefully we will soon be able to hear more of JFK from his college days.